Aren't You A Little Short To Be A Stormtrooper?


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Aren't You A Little Short To Be A Stormtrooper?
Synopsis Cardinal learns on the Horizon armor he absconded with.
Date Aug 27, 2010

Harrison Cabin, Adirondack Mountains

The late-afternoon drive was a perfect time for Cardinal to nap so that the sun didn't bother his eyes. And the cabin in the Adirondacks is the perfect location for him to practice with the suit that inhabits Elisabeth's trunk at this moment. It's the same place she went to learn her own ability. This is more of a coming home than she's let on. She's had him wrapped in a one-way silence field the whole trip so that he doesn't have to listen to her singing as they drive… but she sings most of the way north. Finally near dinnertime, Elisabeth turns off the asphalt road onto a gravel driveway and turns the music off. "Hey, sleepy, we're here," she says quietly.

The clearing where the 'cabin' — more like a gray 1500-square foot house with white shutters backed up to a small, private pond — sits is overgrown. No one's clearly been here this summer.

"I'm awake." Sure he is. Cardinal's eyes open behind his shades, his head lifting up and shaking a little bit to clear it, shifting up to sit up in the seat as he looks around, stifling a yawn, "I'm half surprised you didn't hijack us off to the tropics or something…" He teases a bit, flashing over a grin, "This should work."

Elisabeth laughs softly. "Well…. the fact that you agreed to actually come this far out of the city was, I kind of figured, close enough for government work." She's likely going to sleep better up here than she has all week, perhaps not having to retreat to the haven in her head where she hides from dreams of Mack the Knife and steel-toed boots rupturing things low in her body. She hasn't woken full-out screaming more than twice, but she cries a lot in her sleep still.

The passenger door's pushed open, and Cardinal steps out; hands bracing to the small of his back, and he stretches slowly, vertebrae crack-snapple-pop with the motion. Once he's relaxed, he steps along over to the back of the car, calling over, "Pop the trunk so I can haul this thing out?"

The click of the trunk sounds, and Liz climbs out her side and opens the back seat's door to retrieve the cooler that she brought with them from the city. The advantage to freezing so much food this week is that it traveled well in the cooler and they wont' have to buy much. "I'd actually like to see you get started while it's still light. The helmet will shield your eyes," she tells him as she lugs it toward the front door.

"I made sure the radio and FOF circuits were cut off," says Cardinal as he reaches down into the trunk to haul up the rather large and heavy army bag that the Horizon armor's been packed up within out of it, grunting heavily with the pull on his arms. Once he steps out with it, he starts to lug it along over towards the door, muttering, "Christ this shit is heavy."

"Just wait," Liz replies, unlocking the front door with her keys and hauling the cooler further inside while he works on bringing the uniform in. "It's not too bad to move around in without the exoskeleton, but that fucker can be annoying." She grins as she walks through to set the cooler on the kitchen's floor.

It's not terribly fancy. Nice hardwood floors, comfortable looking chocolate-brown furniture, sturdy wooden coffee table. There are a few paintings hung on the walls that look amateur, probably some local artist. Some photographs of Liz and her parents and grandparents grace the walls of the hall that heads for the three bedrooms. A blue-and-gray-tiled bathroom with a normal tub and shower.

Oh, thank god, floor. The heavy bag is set down with a thud on the floor, and Cardinal straightens again, rubbing one shoulder. "Yeah, well, if you're wearing it it's not all weighing down on your arms." He looks around the cabin for a moment, catching sight of the photographs and walking along over - pausing to regard one of them, lips curving in a faint smile. One hand comes up, brushing to the frame lightly.

"True," the blonde replies as she makes short work of chucking the food into the refrigerator for tonight and tomorrow. It's not like there's much. A casserole, some eggs and milk, a bit of bacon. Some bread. Turning back to him once she's done, Elisabeth catches sight of what he's looking at and walks over to take a look. Some of the pictures she remembers, some she doesn't. She smiles a bit to see herself at various ages with her parents and pauses to look at the one that caught his eye. "They loved coming up here," she says quietly, pointing to one to his left. It's a picture of her parents sitting on the back deck of this very cabin, apparently caught without their knowledge, Carina gesturing animatedly with Jared laughing at whatever it was. It's pretty easy to see that they were happy together, and she's looking at it as though she's never seen it before. "We used to spend a few weeks up here every summer." She knows he didn't have this, though, and she slides her arms around his waist to rest her chin on his shoulder for a moment. "You gotta think I'm such a dork for having, like, the perfect life," she says ruefully.

"A dork?" A quiet chuckle tumbles past Cardinal's lips as he leans back against her, one hand raising up to rest over her arms where they wrap about his waist, "No. Just luckier than I ever was… the only family I ever knew was the orphanage, really. And your father's a good guy."

"He is," Liz says quietly, her blue eyes skimming over the pictures. So many memories… and perhaps half of them no longer hers. She buries the pang of hurt and rage at the unfairness and drops a kiss on the back of his shoulder. "C'mon, you… you're only giving me a few hours to teach you shit that it took me a week to master, so we better get a move on," she tells him in a husky tone. "First things first…. getting *into* the damn thing usually requires a frame so that you can climb into the exoskeleton. You're going to have it easy because you can shadow in."

A turn of his head, and Cardinal nuzzles back to her cheek wordlessly for a moment. Then he turns around fully to step back towards the living room, admitting, "Once I have the basics, I should be able to practice on my own." He drops down to one knee beside the body bag-sized bag, reaching down to drag the zipper all the way down - revealing the glossy metal ceramic and plastic of the Horizon armor that's held within like a high tech corpse.

It's a familiar sight to Elisabeth and she helps him pull the gear out with the ease of long practice. The exoskeleton is the most complicated part of it, but it's still mostly an 'assemble and wear' kind of deal. She helps him set it up, showing him which tab goes into what slot…. with a few cheeky comments along the way, too. Things like "if you're not sure which tab belongs where, bend over — if your butt sticks out the wrong way, it was the wrong slot."

"Funny." A wry note to Cardinal's voice as he works to set the combat armor up, "It should fit just fine, it's set up for my measurements and everything… alright… let's get this thing on, then. Seriously, you usually have this all set up on a frame on the wall or something?" He gives her a curious look, one brow raising a little bit.

Elisabeth laughs. It's probably the first time all week that he's gotten a full-on laugh out of her. Just being far enough out of the city seems to be great for her mood. "Yeah, usually. Basically, it's sort of like a fireman's lineup. They've got them in the locker room under a bar setup, and you just leave the suits set up beneath the bar and use it to haul yourself up and in." She shrugs a little. "It's the only way those of us without shadowing or phasing or whatever abilities can get into the thing." She grins at him, her hands moving competently to piece together the assembly. It doesn't take long — it can't, for those times when you have to essentially shunt the exoskeleton off.

"You should walk around here all evening in it. Get used to the weight and the heft of it. They made me do it for a whole week. The armor itself shifts around blunt force trauma," Elisabeth instructs as they work. "The exoskeleton makes up the vast majority of the weight of the gear, and if you need to do it, you can fast eject it with the clips, here, here, here, and here," she points out.

Of course, there's no hanging frame in here, so the suit's laid out upon the floor instead of from the rack - it'd probably be awkward as hell to get into, at least for anyone who can't become quite so fluid as Richard Cardinal. "Alright, then…" Once it's fully assembled and locked together - a hollow shell - he rolls his head on his shoulders, "…let's get this on."

The shadowman melts away into darkness, colour and light fading as he spreads out across the floor is a living silhouette that glides silently over the armour, spilling into it. Shadow bleeds within carefully - carefully - to mimic his full size, taking his time with it. He's not used to cramming his human body into that carefully molded a space, and he makes a few false starts at it before finally swelling into a full three dimensions again, his head dropping down to rest on the floor, the helmet still sitting next to it. "There. Christ," he pants, the effort apparently tiring. One hand lifts slowly, fingers flexing as he observes, "Kinda heavy without the 'skeleton engaged, yeah… alright, how do I turn it on?"

Elisabeth's attention is entirely on him, worried in part that …. well, what if he gets stuck or something?! Sounds stupid, yes, but present in the back of her head? Oh yes. Sitting cross-legged on the floor while he works on it, Liz murmurs to him, "We should set it up somewhere that you can set up a rack for it similar to the ones at the Factory." But she's patient and waits there for as long as it takes.

Once he's in and solid again, Liz looks a bit relieved. "Okay, so your power is here," she shows him, "and the backup is here. The hydraulics, once engaged, should help you get up but I'll steady you while you do it. No one that I know of has ever tried standing up their first time out." She grins. "Then again, until Felix I'd never seen anyone literally shear the goddamn thing apart the first time either. The geeks cried."

"We can get it set up in the basement… uh…" The power isn't turned on yet, because Cardinal isn't stupid. "…do me a favor and help me put the helmet on, so I don't smash my head open or something?" That is, after all, a serious danger when walking around in a hydraulic-powered suit you aren't trained for, starting from a prone position.

She giggles softly. "Yeah. I will." Elisabeth just wanted to make sure he had all the instructions first. She leans down and kisses him softly. "You're just too cute for words, stuck there on your back like a turtle on its shell," she teases. And then she grabs the helmet and carefully slips it over his head to secure it to the neck band of the uniform.

"My skull is kind of important to me. I keep things in it that I've grown very fond of over the years," Cardinal deadpans, "Such as my brain. The last I knew you were pretty fond of my tongue too, so…" That kiss is returned lightly, his lips catching at her lower, and then he snorts, "Just put the helmet on me, woman."


It's pretty dark inside that helmet. Richard doesn't normally mind the dark, but there's not much to see inside the helmet, so he flicks on the power, the screens all coming to life around him, including several ERROR messages flashing here and there where Alia's disabled the connections to the FRONTLINE systems. "Alright, then," he takes a breath, "Get back, I don't want to knock you over or anything."

Her laughter at the tongue comment has her eyes sparkling and her brows waggling as the helmet was set in place. Elisabeth does climb to her feet and step back out of the way once the suit powers up, though. She knows how difficult this is to get the hang of, and she comments mildly, "We should have suited you up outside first." She moves to the front door to open it wide and step out onto the front porch to hold the screen door wide. "See what you can do about getting to your feet — slowly — and walk out. Think of it like moonwalking — you want move at half speed to get your bearings." She waits on the far side of the screen door just in case he gets a wild hair to move really fast or something.

A deep breath's taken, Cardinal's hands dropping to the floor, one knee slowly lifting to get his foot flat on the floor, and then the other… and then he pushes himself up to his feet, muscle memory kicking in to lift him up with his usual easy spring.

This, of course, sends him lunging head-first into the wall beside the door, which he impacts with a solid bang. A backwards stagger, and then he falls back down on his ass with a ruckus of armour and wood.


Elisabeth instinctively ducks, her arm flying up to protect her face as she flinches away from him. "Oh!" When she looks back, her expression is one of wry amusement. "I said slowly. SLOW. LY. Are you okay?" It's a dumb question. The armor absorbs the shocks. As a matter of fact, it may feel damn strange to him as it shifts itself around his body during that impact.

"I'm good! I'm good, the only thing hurt is my pride…" Right. Slowly. Instead of trying what he did before, Cardinal rolls over to his belly, hands bracing to the floor to push himself up to his hands and knees. The tip of his toe drags over the wood, beneath him, and then he slowly, slowly straightens up to his full height. "…there we go, alright, I got this. This isn't that hard."

Not that hard… but takes practice. Liz continues to hold the door and says dryly, "Come outside where you can kill trees instead of knocking holes in my father's walls." She's watching him carefully, though. "You know…. you haven't told me what you think you're going to actually do with this thing." She pauses. "Think through each step and shift your balance all the way to one foot before picking up the other. You'll be able to move a lot more naturally once the weight of it settles on you, but seriously — it's kinda like what I expect walking in a space suit on the moon would feel like. ANd for God's sake, don't JUMP." Yet.

At the question about what he plans to do with the armor, Cardinal slowly turns around in a circle towards the door… and he stops dead for a moment as she comes into view, her blonde hair alit by the sun of the late day, the ERROR messages flashing in the corner of the helmet like a warning of a time that's yet to come.

It's a good thing she can't see his expression.

"Anything I want to… come on, you don't think this would've been useful at the hospital?" He shifts slowly forward, taking his first step— a bit heavy, so he overcompensates to catch up to it. This naturally results in a chain reaction of stumbling, flailing steps out onto the porch and past her, "Oh shit brakes brakes—"

Thud. Right down the steps of the porch and face down in the dirt and grass.

This may take a bit.

She makes damn sure she's out of the way, her whole body wincing as he tumbles past her. Wow… he's not good at this. Elisabeth is giggling now. She can't help it. "I suppose," she comments. "Although probably not cuz then Sarisa'd get all jacked up and we can't really afford that." There's a pause and she thinks about telling him of other business things, but you know what? She bites her tongue. For the first time this week she's laughing. Yeah, sure, it's at him and not with him at the moment, but that'll change a bit later. She moves to sit on the porch steps now that he's all out on the ground sprawling.

"And you thought it was so easy," Liz comments on a giggle.

"I didn't…" A hand pushes himself up slowly, Cardinal's knee sliding beneath him, "…ask for your criticism, woman! And hell, we've got one rogue FRONTLINE unit running around with, Liz, why not two?" Slowly he's back up to his feet again, shoulders rolling back, arms swinging as he tests his range of motion now that he's not likely to start knocking things over.

That makes her giggle harder, whether it was his intent or not. The lighthearted sound easily reaches his ears even through the helmet, and the shorts-clad blonde sitting in the late-afternoon sun looks relaxed, the lines of tension gone. "I didn't criticize!" Elisabeth objects, her grin cheeky. "And I guess you're right…. though no one wants to admit there's a rogue unit out there. I'm not looking forward to the accusations that will fly if or when that unit is actually in play visibly."

"If they have one," Cardinal opins, "We need to counter it with a unit of our own." That said, he finally walks forward without stumbling, taking his steps carefully as he walks out across the grass in front of the house, "…alright, alright. I can do this walking thing."

Elisabeth applauds as he finally manages to find his feet. Enthusiastically! Because yes… she's still giving him shit. "Yay!" she cries out. "You've accomplished what every other person in the world learns by 12 months." Tongue very firmly in cheek. "Sorry … that was wrong," she then adds on a laugh. "I'll quit harassing you now. Actually, you're doing really well. If you think you have it hard, think about what a speedster looks like tripping on himself and shearing apart the exoskeleton." Cuz the image of Felix doing that will make Richard at least grin.

A hand thrusts in her direction, one finger extended, and he shakes it at her. "Laugh it up, Harrison," Cardinal declares, "Laugh. It. Up." He walks over towards her slowly, smirking inside the helmet, "Sounds like a fuckin' cartoon character, actually."

That actually makes her laugh even harder because if nothing else the fact that he Han Solo'd her to let her know he was alive pops into Elisabeth's head. And well… he might be menacing in that get-up to some, but the blonde knows him too well to think he'd ever in a billion years hurt her. She watches him walk, feeling twenty times lighter in the mountain air with nothing but silence for miles. "Aren't you a little short to be a storm trooper?" she asks on a fit of effervescent giggles.

"Just what we need," Cardinal exhales in a heavy sigh, voice muffled by the helmet, "A Druish Princess." He rolls his shoulders back again, "Gonna take some work to get used to the bulk of this. I'll have to make use of the Library, probably, they're building the beacon so Midtown isn't all that safe…"

Leaning back on her hands in the sunshine, Liz turns her face to the sky. The giggles are petering out and she looks at ease. "I did warn you that it's heavy as shit. There are a few places you could practice with it — the northern portion of Central Park at night. If you're in the armor, the curfew assholes will just leave you the hell alone and you won't even have to explain yourself."

"Yeah, I imagine they'd probably steer clear of some guy dressed in a fucking exoskeletal suit…" Cardinal turns his head slowly, "…I'll have to get Alia to mock up a new FOF frequency and all. Once I've got the hang of it, I'll letting Devi and her see what they can do about reproducing it."

Her head drops back down from the sun-worshipping pose she'd adopted up on the steps. Liz studies him and asks quietly, "You're serious about attempting to reproduce it and get the rest of the squad into it? I mean…. they've spent billions on these things, Richard. Even if they can work out the logistics and schematics, we don't have the team of developers and builders to build the damn things. We'd be better off hijacking several more."

The blonde pauses and then comments, "Speaking of hijacking…." Another hesitation and Liz says, "I've got our people covered for Registration. I hope. It's going to cost us a hundred bucks a pop. And the possibility that if he gets jacked up by someone for faking them, he'll roll on me to get his ass out of a sling." She smiles faintly, seeming not too concerned by that. "But it'll get Jaiden and Aric and Monica and whoever else needs it Non-Evo paperwork. Hell, that'll probably get Jaiden's citizenship papers pushed through."

"The hard part is the research and development," Cardinal says, admitting wryly, "I doubt we could lay our hands on this stiffening liquid armour shit, but we could at least reproduce the exoskeleton - we don't need a team of developers, we have a mechanical intuitive…" He pauses, then says sourly, "Or two."

He looks to her, grunting, "Good. They're the ones most worried, get them in touch with him."

Elisabeth nods slightly. "I'll drop them both a text with a time and day. We can only do about two a week. Nash doesn't usually handle Evo registrations, so he's going to start rounding some up so as to pad the numbers for us for a few weeks. Hide our people in with some others."

A nod of the helmeted visage, and then Cardinal turns to walk back the way he'd come, just getting used to the feel of the heavy exoskeleton reinforcing his movements. "…Elle sent me a text," he tells her as he walks, his tone sour, "If she joins us… Warren is going to come along too."

Now the blonde goes tense. "What?" she demands. "Please, for fuck's sake, tell me you're kidding," Elisabeth says as she jerks up, yanked from her relaxed reverie into a more upright position. "What in the bloody hell are we going to do with that crazy fucker?? And why would we want him?"

"I'd just as soon shoot him in the head," Cardinal admits darkly, turning back around to face her, both hands spreading slowly to either side, "Whether or not he's really Edward's son, he's utterly fucking uncontrollable… and he's got more blood on his hands than both of us put together. If he was sane I could put him to use, but…"

"So what are we going to do?" Elisabeth asks, her brows pulled together as she rests her elbows on her knees. With her behind settled on the second stair down from the porch, she's nearly eye level with him if he were standing at the bottom of the stairs. In spite of the sudden tension, she looks young sitting there with her toes pointed together and her hair caught back in that ponytail. Might remind him of hanging out in a dream space. "If he gets wind of who is actually involved with us and decides to go run us all in, there's not a damn thing we can do to stop that. I'm leery enough of Elle, though I do think there's some possibility that the woman might actually be swayed to our side. Him, though? What's he got to offer us?"

"An army of giant robots?" Cardinal shakes his head slowly, "You're right, though, he's uncontrollable - and I don't want him. He's a murdering schitzophrenic liable to betray us at the drop of a hat, and I'm not letting him get any closer to me than a ten foot pole."

"So….." Elisabeth raises both eyebrows. "That still doesn't answer what you want to do." She points at him. "Walk," she orders. "And when you've got walking down, then you should run from here to that tree on the other side of the driveway."

"I'm walking, I'm walking…" She can't see his eyes roll as he turns back to head down across the grass, walking down in the direction of the tree - he'll run when he has walking down, like she said. "…I suppose we could just have him killed but Edward probably wants him for something. God if I know what…"

Elisabeth mumbles something under her breath that she clearly has no intention for him to actually hear — she mumbles it just loud enough to let him hear the disgruntled tone and not the words. It's probably something bitchy and snarky. She's got something of a little snarl going on about now. "How's the HUD working?"

Cardinal brings a hand up to tap against the side of the helmet, admitting, "Just fine. Mostly error messages since it doesn't have anything feeding it data, but… hey, look, I can see my heart-rate. I wonder if this thing can take my blood pressure."

"It can," Elisabeth replies. "Body temp, blood pressure, heart rate. The techs that monitor ours can also use some limited amounts of programming — or so I gather, I'm not sure this is true — to get the reactive armor to help put pressure on a wound if you're bleeding. The infrared in the helmet can verify heat signatures inside a building when you're yards away, and there are some additional quirks to each individual's abilities. Like Spalding's body has reactive defenses, so the armor doesn't have to respond for him as rapidly as it does, say, for me. And Felix's exoskeleton had to be specially designed to handle the friction that he generates with his movements, so his metal gear and armor padding were made lighter, I think. I'm not sure how that will translate for you, honestly."

"I think this is just a 'standard model' if there is such a thing," admits Cardinal as he looks around, testing out the heads-up display, "It's still pretty fucking cool. I think I can get the hang of this without too much trouble." That's what he said before the first few times he fell over.

Elisabeth giggles softly again. "Uh-huh…. if I leave you out here to put dinner into the oven to start warming, I'm not gonna come out and find you … I dunno, hanging upside down out of a tree by one foot, am I?" Her tone is dry and very amused at him. Boys and their new toys. She figures it'll take a while for him to get over the coolness factor. Hell… she's still not over it.

Cardinal waves his hand - only swaying with the overbalance a littl - back towards the house. "Go start making dinner, woman, Christ," he declares, "I'll be fine. I'm in fucking Horizon armor, what'm I gonna do, hurt myself?"

Her grin is pure cheek. "You keep callin' me 'woman' in that tone, Richard fucking Cardinal, and when you get out of that Horizon armor, I'm going to show you exactly how much 'woman' I am," Elisabeth taunts, climbing to her feet.

"That's the plan," Richard murmurs under his breath, turning with a smile — and as she heads into the house, he decides to try for that run along down towards the tree she'd motioned to earlier, muttering, "Upside down in a tree. I'll show her…"

The first thing she hears as she steps off the porch and into the house is a very loud crash from outside.

This may take longer than he thought.

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